The Fragmented Future of Streaming Television

It is going to be tough to find everything you want to watch in one place

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Today another all-in-one entertainment box for streaming ups its game. Roku added HBO Go to its offerings, which include Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon and Pandora to name a few. This comes a week after WD TV live and Xbox Live both enhanced their boxes. WD TV Live is now the only box in the land that offers Spotify. And XBox Live snatched some pretty sweet cable partnerships. The options all have some unique offering, but none of them have everything. Not only are we entering a dark age of movie watching, in which TV shows and movies are fragmented across various streaming services, but the devices that attempt to bring it all back together don't give us what we want all in one place.

As viewers migrate to the Internet for media consumption, these TV boxes attempt to put that content back where it started: on your big TV in front of the couch. And to a point these devices succeed. They all have a lot. But while the industry negotiates its business models, we're left with a bunch of half-measures. As Gizmodo's Kelly Hodgkins lamented about Xbox Live last week, "It's not the cord cutting-friendly service that we had hoped for."

So, we thought we'd look at a comparison of what boxes have which services. It gets confusing very quickly. WD TV offers Spotify, but it doesn't have HBO so Spotifiers who want to stream Boardwalk Empire are out of luck. While many of them offer Netflix, Hulu or Amazon, even these services have offerings from a hodgepodge of content providers.*

These problems stem from the standoff between cable companies and digital streaming services. Media has splintered across multiple streaming services because movie studios and cable providers aren't comfortable with the model yet and have never liked monopolies. Earlier this year Fox limited streaming of its shows on Hulu because of these very fears, as The New York Times's Brian Stelter reported. And a few months ago Starz walked away from its contract with Netflix.

But, given that consumers want all content at their fingertips, brighter times will come. Apple did it once with iTunes, it could do it again with Apple TV. But, that might've been a job for Jobs.

*This chart has been updated to include more XBox Live content. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.